31 Favorites #23: The Haunting (1963)



The Haunting is one of those films that sneaks up on you, because if you've watched loads of horror films like I have, you grow an ego. You just begin to feel that you've "seen it all" and that there's not much in a film that can actually scare the living daylights out of you. This arrogance has come back to bite me on the ass in a couple of instances, most recently with Goodnight Mommy. And The Haunting is another film that I just didn't expect to be scary. I was so so so wrong.

The Haunting involves a group of people who enter a purportedly haunting house called Hill House to study its paranormal activity (...can we just establish one thing here? This never turns out well. Don't do this. Ever. Please.). One woman in the group, Eleanor, seems particularly entranced by the house and, despite pleas for her to leave due to her fragile emotional state, she chooses to stay. Forever, and ever, and ever, and ever.

The thing that makes The Haunting so effective in its scares is that it has a less is more approach. You never see any monsters, but evidence of their existence is everywhere - banging doors, maze-like hallways, staircases that always seem like they're trying to kill you.

Three Things I Love About It:

  1. So much is achieved with so little. If you're looking for one, this is a good, old fashioned, haunted house movie.
  2. Weird camera angles, strange continuity issues - it all serves to make the viewer really uncomfortable, and it's incredibly effective in creating a nightmarish atmosphere for the viewer.
  3. Sound design. Oh man. The sounds in this film. They make you want to curl so far back into your couch that you come out through the other side.